Saturday, December 13, 2008

9th Circuit Rejects Tax Deduction for Religious Day School Tuition

In Sklar v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, (9th Cir., Dec. 12, 2008), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has once again rejected a claim by parents that they should be able to deduct for income tax purposes a portion of the tuition and fees paid to their children's Orthodox Jewish day schools. The parents insisted that expenditures covering solely religious education should be deductible as a charitable contribution to the schools. In 2002, the 9th Circuit had rejected a similar claim by the same parents for prior tax years. Both then, and in this case, the parents claimed that a 1993 settlement agreed to by the IRS permitting members of the Church of Scientology to deduct 80% of the cost of "auditing" and "training" was analogous to the exemption claimed by the Sklars. They argued that denying the exemption to Orthodox Jews violated the Establishment Clause and principles of administrative consistency. The court disagreed. Here is the Department of Justice press release on the decision. Josh Gerstein's blog discusses the case at greater length. (Also see prior related posting.)